What is Shopper Research

What is Shopper Research?

By Insight Platforms

  • article
  • explainer
  • Shopper Research
  • Concept Testing
  • Packaging Research
  • Qual-Quant Hybrid
  • Real-Time Consumer Feedback
  • User Experience (UX) Research
  • Behavioural Research
  • Qualitative Research

Shopper research (also shopper insights) involves quantitative and qualitative studies that investigate consumer behavior and preferences to uncover the motivations that drive purchasing decisions.

To paint a clearer picture, shopper research aims to reveal:

  • Purchase Motivations
  • Product Preferences
  • Price Sensitivity
  • Channel Preferences
  • Shopping Experiences
  • Purchase Journeys
  • Consumer Demographics
  • Trends and Insights

To make the most of shopper research, it’s important to understand that retail isn’t a one-step transactional event — an individual’s shopping experience consists of an entire ecosystem of collaborating variables that prepare them for that final purchase decision.

Shopper Research vs. Market Research

From a surface viewpoint, it’s easy to mistake shopper research and market research as being one and the same. In reality, the two approaches operate as two different sides of the same coin, both leading to very different, critical steps in understanding consumer behavior.

Market research offers a bird’s-eye view of the market terrain, providing insights into overall marketplace conditions, competitive landscape, potential areas of opportunity, and industry trends.

Shopper research seeks to focus on the individual shopper level, allowing businesses to identify what drives shopper behavior and what factors are critical to the purchasing decisions of individual consumers.

Combining these two forms of research allows businesses to strike a balance between adopting overarching market strategies and crafting personalized experiences that resonate with individual customers.

Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches For Shopper Research

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used to collect shopper insights.

Qualitative shopper research is employed to examine the ‘whys’ behind shopper behavior through methods like focus groups and in-depth interviews. The goal of this research typically involves collecting nuanced and deep-level insights into the emotional and psychological drivers that impact consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Qualitative data gathered from shopper research allows retailers to discover what resonates with their target market and understand just ‘how’ a brand can communicate the essence of their products and services in a way that aligns or connects with target shoppers.

On the other hand, quantitative research for shopper insights aims to help retailers gain a comprehensive picture of their consumer base through statistical analysis (aka clear and cut numbers). By using surveys and data analysis, retailers can measure the scale, frequency, intent, and impact of shopper behaviors and marketing strategies to make informed, data-driven decisions for their brand, product, or service.

Quantitative research is also helpful in tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) used to gauge the effectiveness of ongoing brand/product/service initiatives and then fine-tune the approach accordingly.

Together, qualitative and quantitative shopper research are used to decipher what lies behind a purchase and reveal patterns that can be used to optimize store layouts, product placements, and pricing strategies.

Methodologies for Shopper Research

In the past, traditional shopper research approaches were confined to more basic and stagnant research methods like surveys and observational studies. However, in today’s tech-modified world retailers can apply new advanced methodologies that provide granular insights into the psyche of the modern shopper.

Additionally, the surge of online shopping and digital experiences has prompted a more sophisticated approach to shopper research. While there’s still a right time and place for traditional shopper research methods like surveys, when paired with new-age approaches retailers are able to amplify their overall impact with supplementary data that provides a more accurate picture of consumer preferences.


New age observation methods like in-store tracking and heat mapping enable retailers to conduct in-depth monitoring for shopper insights.

To conduct in-store tracking, retailers use video analysis and product sensors to study how shoppers interact with products and consumers’ journeys during real-time shopping experiences.

Heat mapping technology provides a visual representation of shopper ‘foot-traffic’ for both in-store and online shoppers, revealing hotspots and underutilized areas relevant for product placement and shopping navigation.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires have been around for decades, but new digital adaptations have given them a new lease on life.

Now available online, in-app, or classically in-person, surveys remain a key way to gather qualitative data on shopper opinions and experiences. Surveys remain a timeless and valuable approach to shopper research due to their flexibility to be tailored to specific shopper demographics and their ability to deliver real-time feedback crucial for receiving honest and detailed responses and insights that provide a snapshot of the consumer experience at its most potent.


One-on-one interviews and focus groups are qualitative methods that take a more conversational approach to understanding the rationale behind shopper behaviors.

One-on-one interviews involve an interviewer leading a guided discussion with a research participant in a comfortable setting, encouraging them to open up and share their experiences, motivations, and thought processes behind shopper decisions in detail.

Focus groups involve a single moderator or interviewer leading a group discussion with multiple participants where retailers test product concepts and potential marketing strategies. The goal of observing participants in a group dynamic is to understand customer perceptions and the social influences that drive decision-making.

Digital Analytics

Digital analytics tools and research methods provide real-time quantitative data on website engagement, conversion rates, and social media interactions to provide retailers with a numerical overview of shopper motivations.

Utilizing website analytics, retailers can gain a detailed view of how shoppers interact with an online store by monitoring which pages are most visited, where shoppers tend to exit, and which call-to-actions are most effective.

Social media engagement analysis involves the monitoring of hashtags, comments, and shares to identify emerging trends and consumer sentiment towards a brand and its products or services. Data collected from social media can also be used to segment and target specific shopper personas.

Experimental Methods

Experimental research methods are used in shopper research to validate retailers’ hypotheses on consumer behavior and preferences in relation to their products or services.

At the end of the day, even after all of the research and data have been collected – it’s crucial to test ideas for trial and error before launching them. Measuring impact allows retailers to make informed decisions that lead to a better shopping experience.

A/B testing for shopper research involves presenting shoppers with two versions of a product or website and tracking which performs better in order to increase sales and improve customer satisfaction.

Retailers use store layout testing to observe how shoppers interact with different store configurations and gain insights on how to optimize the layout for flow and impact.

Virtual shelf testing helps analyse consumer behavior in a simulated shopping environment using digital renderings of store layouts, shelves, and product packaging to test how variations in these elements influence shopper decisions. This approach offers a cost-effective and flexible method for identifying optimal store designs and product arrangements without the need to physically alter real-world store setups.

Eye tracking in shopper research gives insights into consumer attention and engagement patterns while shopping. By tracking where and how long a shopper looks at certain areas or products in a store, retailers can gather precise data about what captures attention and drives interest helping understand the visual path and focus areas of consumers.

Benefits of Shopper Research

Shopper research in retail is forward-looking – which is a must when today’s shoppers have evolved to be more informed, digitally savvy, and with higher expectations and demands.

However, besides being a saving grace for brands looking to stay ahead of the curve and competition by identifying trends, niches, and opportunities for products and services –  why shouldn’t businesses opt out of shopper research?

Uncovering Consumer Insights: Shopper research uncovers every turn, consideration, and friction point encountered by individual consumers up until the final purchase decision. By leveraging these tools, businesses can discover pivotal touchpoints that influence consumer behavior, make refinements, and increase conversion rates.

Improving Customer Experience: By gathering data on how customers perceive and interact with specific brands, products, and services, businesses can make informed changes that enhance satisfaction and loyalty.

Fostering Customer Loyalty: Shopper research helps businesses preemptively address any issues, cultivate a loyal customer base, and create more personalized shopping experiences by understanding consumer expectations at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

A Final Note

Shopper research is an essential multifaceted tool for businesses committed to understanding and catering to modern consumers, and it should not be lumped in with market research.

In a digitally adept world where competition is just one click away, adopting a strategic and holistic approach to shopper research can enable businesses to not only create products and services that rival others in the market, but it also allows them to create offerings that are valued and appreciated by their customers.


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